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Further Facts of Consciousness

  1. Apr 12, 2009 #1
    "Identity theories" of consciousness generally assert that the physical basis of thought (brains, etc.) is identical with thought. For the more physicalist versions of identity theory there is nothing more to be said: what brains do can be labeled thought/consciousness and that is the end of the matter (pardon the pun). For other versions of identity theory, we may subscribe to a dual aspect theory of consciousness that asserts a difference in kind between consciousness and matter - but there is a necessary and clear one to one correspondence between thoughts and matter. Under this version, if we know all there is to know about the state of a given brain, we know at least in theory everything about the experience associated with that brain. (The connection between the two is the subject of the "psychophysical laws" that Chalmers and others have written about).

    There is a third type of identity theory, however, that asserts the existence of further facts about consciousness that cannot even in theory be known through an exhaustive examination of the matter of a given brain. (Maybe this shouldn't be considered an "identity theory" after all, but it's a closely related species to be sure). This version accepts that there is a necessary correspondence between matter and thought and changes to matter will result in changes to thought. But this version also asserts that even if we knew literally everything that could be known about a given brain we would still not know everything about its associated experience/consciousness/thoughts.

    My question, then, is what arguments do we have for this third view? Libet has proposed an experiment that would, if performed successfully, show that the brain's physical connections are not sufficient to explain experience; rather, for Libet, there is a "conscious mental field" that is a heretofore unidentified field that mediates consciousness, in addition to the physical connections of the brain. Libet's experiment remains unperformed.

    However, what I'm looking for is a little different: evidence/arguments for the further facts of consciousness, which could not be discovered even in theory by an exhaustive examination of matter.
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  3. Apr 12, 2009 #2
    Let's consider Libet's study of decision making and readiness potential. If you follow MWI we can say that all choices that can possibly happen do happen. In the case of consciousness, our ability to make decisions will then be affected by uncertainty principle. No matter how exhaustive your examination of the brain becomes it only stands to reason that we'll never be able to entirely predict the outcome of ANY choice, though some will have higher probabilities than others.


    A follow up to Libet's original study. Interestingly enough they were only able to make accurate predictions 78pct of the time.

    I get the feeling this isn't what you're looking for as this would be indifferent to a brain/mind/consciousness field theory. The only other thing I would suggest would to be to look for instances of human experience that cannot be duplicated through physiological means. At that point you really start to fringe out into some pretty bizarre areas that are less than reputable.

    There was a time when mescaline, LSD, peyote, psilocybine and other pyschoactives were believed to bring about just this sort of experience. However, we now understand that these substances are just activating more physiological responses. Even the death experience, out of body experiences, and astral projection/remote viewing have a scientific basis originating in the brain. There are few mysteries left out there.
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2009
  4. Apr 13, 2009 #3
    afmula, thanks for the response. My inquiry is a little different than the inquiry into prediction of decisions. Libet is of course most famous for his work on this issue, but the theory I refer to (I wasn't as clear as I could have been) regards his "conscious mental field" theory regarding the "hard problem" of consciousness. As such, I'm looking for information/arguments that may support or disconfirm the notion that even an exhaustive examination of matter could not even in theory reveal the corresponding experience associated with that matter.
  5. Apr 13, 2009 #4
    There are tons of arguments against it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Split-brain" [Broken] split brain experiment shows that there is no communication between hemispheres that are disconnected as predicted by Libet's proposed experiment.

    There are also problems with Libet's definition (or lack thereof) of this field. There is no known force that exists that is unobservable and unmeasurable. He just kind of pulled this out of thin air and it shows.

    There are new http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal...s-allows-timely-limb-movements_10057588.html" that would appear to show that Libet misinterpreted RP altogether, hence his entire concept of CMF is baseless.

    Now if you want to tackle the "hard problem" of conciousness then I'd start with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Edelman" [Broken]. He approaches conciousness from a scientific perspective and doesn't invoke magical fields in order to explain qualia, novelty and subjectivity. He also doesn't appear to work around data to push any pre-conceived agenda.
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  6. Apr 13, 2009 #5
    a4mula, again I'm not asking about Libet's decision-making work or his CMF theory. Rather, I'm asking whether we have evidence/arguments in favor of this "further facts" view of the hard problem. The CMF theory goes to how the facts of consciousness are mediated - where they reside and how the brain's hardware is interconnected. The further facts issue, as I've defined it, goes to the question: if we accept one to one correspondence between matter and experience, such that every change to matter leads to a predictable change (assuming we knew far more than we know now about how this works) in experience, are there still further facts about experience that couldn't be explained through understanding the changes in matter (neurons, etc.)?

    I'm not advocating any position here, I'm merely asking the question.
  7. Apr 14, 2009 #6


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    Hi TamHunt,
    This reminds me of the Mary’s Room thought experiment (Jackson). There’s an interesting powerpoint presentation on it here:

    also in Wiki:

    See also “Knowledge Argument” in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

    Basically the argument says, we can know everything physical about something, but still not know all the facts (ie: how it feels). For example, we can know everything there is about how the brain processes various wavelengths of light but we are still missing the knowledge about what the experience of color is like. It’s an argument against physicalism that says we are still missing facts about something even when we have all the facts about neuron interaction, the reaction of a certain wavelength of light with cones in the eye, etc…
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  8. Apr 14, 2009 #7
    Q, what you describe is what I've labeled the second type of identity theory. What I'm driving at is the third kind, which recognizes we need a double-aspect theory of matter/information (physical/experiential), but also asserts that even with this double-aspect to matter there would still be further facts that could not be discovered through examination of matter. In other words, there is a necessary impact of changes to the constituent matter on its associated experience (for example, a scalpel to the brain will have an impact!), but there may also be an impact on experience from some other realm that is not directly connected to the constituent matter.

    The reason I'm asking these questions is that the 2nd type of identity theory is in fact a full answer to the hard problem - and another name for it is panexperientialism (all matter has some related experience, no matter how minimal that experience is). Yet another name for it is double-aspect theory of matter/information.

    But given some interesting evidence for the Buddhist notion of continuants (which allow reincarnation of at least some parts of personality), paranormal phenomena, and even perhaps life after death in some manner, it's worth at least inquiring into this third type of identity theory that seeks to go beyond the matter/mind connection and examine the possibility of an ether/ground of being/Platonic forms/etc. impact on mind connected to matter, and thus possibly to matter itself.

    I'm not advocating this position, by any means, but I'm looking for any potential evidence/arguments in favor of it to see if it's worth pursuing further.
  9. Apr 14, 2009 #8


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    What evidence exactly?
  10. Apr 16, 2009 #9
    Apeiron, my detailed response apparently got lost somehow even though it was posted for a while. Here's my short response: on paranormal phenomena, check out Dean Radin's Entangled Minds It's a history of paranormal research over the last hundred years or so and includes some impressive statistical analysis. The most convincing evidence is for telekinesis, telepathy and clairvoyance.
  11. Apr 16, 2009 #10


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    Tam, you received notification of why your post was deleted the other day. Dean Radin is considered a crank and is not a credible resource.
  12. Apr 16, 2009 #11
    Are you serious????? You actually will censor what I can cite in my posts? This is worse than Nazi Germany - and I'm not being hyperbolic. You REALLY need to re-consider your policies. Wow.
  13. Apr 16, 2009 #12


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    Read the guidelines you agreed to when signing up. Crackpot posts are not allowed.
  14. Apr 16, 2009 #13
    Evo, I fully understand this is a privately-run site and you can set the rules you want. But seriously - saying who I can and cannot cite as a matter of information, when prompted by another discussant? You have some discretion in applying your rules and I would hope you would use it wisely. This forum, in particular (Philosophy), is about sharing ideas that range from the mainstream to well beyond. Have some imagination, and allow us to exercise our own through rational inquiry (or irrational if we choose), please!
  15. Apr 16, 2009 #14


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    We are a science forum and we hold all forums to a higher standard. There are many places on the internet where crackpottery and pseudo-science are allowed. Physics Forums is not one of them. In addition to the General Guidelines there are additional Philosophy forum guidelines.

    The guidelines can be linked to in my signature.

    You have taken this thread off topic.
  16. Apr 16, 2009 #15


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    Dual aspect theories conflate properties rather than explain them. They are not proper models.

    Chalmer's is an argument of last resort. He is saying: I think there is this thing called "consciousness". I can't find it anywhere at a higher scale so perhaps it is way down there hidden at the fundamental scale. In fact that is what I will choose to believe. Consciousness is an axiomatic aspect of the smallest scale of material reality. Assuming it axiomatically, I feel now no need to explain it.

    So you see how the desired output of the model becomes part of the assumed input. A tautological argument that goes nowhere.

    The correct approach to modelling consciousness would be "dual" in a sense, but it instead would reduce consciousness "upwards" - to fundamental form rather than fundamental substance.

    Of course consciousness is a loaded term as it carries so many "substance" connotations that it is just about impossible to talk sensibly using it.

    I would step back and say that the human brain/mind is what we might call a very intensely located version of a "knowing process". There are many kinds of models of knowing processes - cybernetics, neural nets, dissipative structures, complex adaptive systems, autopoietic systems, semiosis. You can appreciate how these are generalised forms - system style organisation that achieves certain purposes.

    In seeking a third type of identity theory, you are simply going to be compounding your mistakes. You dimly sense there is this other direction to scientific explanation - form. But now you want to conflate again. Modelling works by generalisation. Systematically moving away from the specifics to the universals. You just want to make something specific (human brain/minds) also something universal - and are puzzled as to whether it is a universal aspect of substance or a universal aspect of form.

    BTW I am very familiar with the psi literature. Indeed I met Radin at the Koestler Institute.

    If I discount psi (and I do) it is from a careful evaluation of not just the evidence, but also the evidence gatherers!

    Same with Chalmers, Hameroff, Libet and other dual aspecters.

    In a world which wants to preserve the folk psychology notion of soul, it is obvious why these guys gain traction even in academic circles. But I've met with them, debated with them, and found their ideas to be shallow rooted.

    To sum up, consciousness needs to be modelled. Modelling involves a reduction (of information). We generalise or universalise to get away from the particulars or the specifics.

    What is not well recognised in science is that there are two directions in which to generalise - towards the local substances and towards the global forms.

    Physics of course does reduce to both substance and form - to fundamental particles ruled by global physical laws. But it just models the simple and not the complex. It breaks relationships apart but does not model how they naturally can hang together.

    You need systems science to model complex form. And despite respected cheerleaders like Schrodinger, systems science remains a fringe discipline as far as most are concerned.
  17. Apr 16, 2009 #16
    Apeiron, as we've discussed in other threads: you seem to be an eliminativist in terms of believing there is "nothing there there" in terms of the hard problem. If that is the case, this is your privilege, but I cannot grok this position. Where I think we have common ground - and I prefer to emphasize common ground as a general approach to life - is in our mutual belief in a "pan-ist" approach. I think panexperientialism is probably the best approach, whereas you have previously stated your preference for a pansemiotic approach, which I have yet to delve into in any detail (and I'd appreciate a SHORT list of targeted works I can explore).

    Re folk notions of the soul, I am no defender and panexperientialism is not a philosophical re-framing of this folk notion. It IS a philosophical re-framing of older notions of animism in some ways, but there are many key distinctions. I have a chapter on Self, Soul and Death in my in-progress book (as well as an earlier chapter on consciousness). Here is the summary, which I suspect you will like. The reason I'm pursuing the line of inquiry in this thread is because I'm trying to give the notion of soul or Buddhist "continuant" a fair shake and seeing if I'm being too closed-minded in categorically ruling it out, as I do in this current draft. (I quote Dennett in this section as a bit of an ironic tough - I agree with this quote but I definitely don't agree with his broader views on consciousness, which are remarkably like your own).

    Experience and the Self

    [T]he strangest and most wonderful constructions in the whole animal world are the amazing, intricate constructions made by the primate, Homo sapiens. Each normal individual of this species makes a self. Out of its brain it spins a web of words and deeds, and … it doesn’t have to know what it’s doing; it just does it.

    Daniel Dennett, Explaining Consciousness1

    I’ve attempted to answer the question, “what is consciousness?,” by getting to the bottom of experience itself. Experience is the more fundamental constituent of what we commonly refer to as consciousness. Experience is innate in all matter and, when matter combines in certain complex ways, such as in human brains, the high level self-consciousness that we enjoy arises.

    But what is the “we” in the previous sentence? What is the “I” in the sentence before that? What is the self? In other words, what is the nature of individual identity and our undeniable sense of self? These are the questions tackled in this chapter. The key difference between experience/consciousness and the concept of self is duration. Experience is that undeniable feature of reality that we all can confirm in any given moment with the Cartesian realization: I think, therefore I am. In this story, we change this statement, however, to “I experience, therefore experience exists.” The distinction between experience and the self hinges on the fact that the concept of self requires some degree of duration – a connection of moments of experience into an apparent “stream” of experience/consciousness. Experience is instantaneous: it exists in this moment, and now this one, and now this one… But the self is commonly conceived as possessing some degree of permanence. In other words, the distinction between self and experience is that self is experience aggregated over many moments. But what is this “self” beyond this distinction? As we shall see, the phrase “some degree of permanence” is very important in figuring out what the self really is, or isn’t.

    When we think deeply, we realize that “I” – let’s call this “I-dentity” or the self – shouldn’t necessarily be considered just a mind and/or body. Change and impermanence are inescapable features of the universe. Similarly, the closer we examine exactly what I-dentity is, the more clear it becomes that the notion of an enduring self, either in the normal earthbound existence, or in the more religious sense of the soul, is actually an illusion. Experience/consciousness itself is no illusion, but the idea of an enduring and unchanging self can’t withstand serious examination. This is one of the basic teachings of Buddhism, and many other religious and spiritual creeds, and is a truth originally derived without the aid of modern science and its knowledge of atoms, molecules and metabolism. Modern physics, chemistry and biology have done much, however, to bolster the ancient teachings in this area. I don’t in this book advocate any particular religious or philosophical position in its entirety. However, this chapter is derived in part from Buddhist teachings as well as numerous Western philosophers old and new (along with a healthy dose of introspection and self-observation). While I adopt the Buddhist idea of “no self,” I do not adopt other related Buddhist ideas such as reincarnation or karma related to reincarnation.
  18. Apr 16, 2009 #17
    Evo, be careful how you define crackpottery in your vigilant patrolling of these forums: every major advance in science and philosophy has been derided as crackpottery by the status quo opposition. How on earth do you think progress is made if fringe ideas are not explored and discussed? EVERY new idea begins as a fringe idea.

    As for Radin, I suspect you have not actually read his book. If you do, you may find his tight statistical analysis of many thousands of controlled experiments intriguing if not entirely convincing to you. I was most impressed with the experiments on random number generators and the ability of conscious intention to influence (albeit very slightly) outcomes over many thousands and millions of trials.
  19. Apr 16, 2009 #18


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    I would be an eliminativist to the extent which I say those who believe prima facie in the hard problem are simply being misled by a belief that consciousness should generalise to a substance ontology.

    Because it is impossible to reduce consciousness to the notion of local substance, there is indeed a hard problem in that direction.

    But because there is a second alternative route to reducing/generalising - towards the notion of global form - the hard problem evaporates. There is now no road block to be seen in that direction. Just some hard graft in creating the models.

    Again, I would remind that complex form is not simple form - the scaleless discourse we are familiar with from platonic solids (though Plato of course threw everything into his realm of forms, including nous and love - he is not our reliable guide here. Platonism is not the alternative we seek.).

    The urge to generalise is indeed to seek pan-something. Pan experience is a substance approach. Pan semiosis (pan knowing) is a form approach. That is why one is right, the other wrong.

    To continue the theme, physics is normally considered to be pan-materialism, but it is more accurately pan-mechanicalism or pan-simplicity. It would need to be balanced by a branch of science that is pan-complexity, pan-system.

    But you have to demonstrate that you have considered the structure of consciousness, that you have deconstructed it as a process. I have seen nothing in what you say that you have properly studied the neuroscience and psychophysics of this subject.

    You are making all the beginner's mistakes. You act as if you already know what consciousness is - its just qualia, its just the feeling I have of being aware. But there is a science of its structure which you would need to be conversant with. You actually have to do some study before you "write a book".

    So far, you have presented neither a novel idea nor demonstrated a sound grasp of the factual terrain. So I'd shelve the book for 20 years until you have had a chance to bone up on the subject.
  20. Apr 16, 2009 #19


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    And did you also read the full psi literature on this? Did you question Radin on operator 10 and her overwhelming contribution to the significance of the Jahn lab results?

    If this kind of stuff is going to be the lynchpin of your theorising, you have to actually get off your butt and put the hard questions to the people concerned.

    Forget about cranks. You first have to rule out fraud and artifact.
  21. Apr 16, 2009 #20


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    That is blatant misinformation. Apparently you have been sucked in by this nonsense and have read nothing about the scientific facts. Radin is the crank head of the crackpot Institute of Noetic Sciences. PEAR was shut down.

    This thread has deteriorated into crank nonsense.
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